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Senate panel with Joe Lieberman, Carl Levin and John McCain
If you had to pick two of these guys to reform the filibuster, and one to retire from the Senate, who would you pick?
So, there's now a bipartisan "filibuster reform" proposal on the table, backed by Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ). What would it do, and what does it mean?

Well, I'm sure I won't surprise anybody by answering, "not much" to the first question. But the second answer is much more important. It means that the Senators who really wanted to resist all change are beginning to see the writing on the wall, with respect to the threat to adopt new rules by majority vote in the next Congress. If you don't take the possibility that there are 51 votes available to adopt new rules by a simple majority vote next month, then you don't even bother coming up with a compromise alternative. So in that respect, kudos to those pushing for reform! It's a real pleasure to see Democrats organized enough to be able to get their way in the United States Senate, for a change!

But, if the votes are there, what good would a compromise proposal be, bipartisan or otherwise? The answer, of course, is that the votes haven't been cast yet, and Senators are still subject to persuasion. So it's absolutely within the realm of possibility that Senators may see something they prefer in the compromise proposal, as compared to what's been floated so far.

Given what's in the new proposal, though, I don't think that's terribly likely, nor do I think it's wise.

The first big difference between previous proposals and this one is that this would not actually change the standing rules of the Senate. Instead, it would create a "standing order of the Senate," designed to sunset with the 113th Congress. That by itself is not such a big deal. If adopted, it would be enforceable on the floor just like any of the standing rules. But remember that some of the reform-minded Senators are in this for more than just filibuster reform. Above and beyond that very important goal, they genuinely believe that Senators ought to vote directly on the adoption (or continuation) of their rules with some regularity, rather than simply assuming that they continue in force from one Congress to the next, as Rule V purports to be the case. Those Senators are not likely to be enamored of a compromise that drops this important aspect of rules reform.

The second big difference is that standing orders of the Senate are either adopted by unanimous consent, or with the adoption of a resolution spelling out their terms. And while it's entirely possible that an agreement could be worked out by which the parties agree to allow it through by unanimous consent, I'd certainly have to take that as a sign that we got considerably less real reform than we might have been able to get if the reformers had been a little more aggressive. Of course, it's when you start moving into territory where some part of the proposal might actually draw objection that you realize that a compromise embodied in a resolution brought to the floor for a vote would be... subject to a filibuster.

Now, a compromise that's got widespread support might very well get past a filibuster with relative ease. But every filibuster carries risks, and over the years, many filibuster reform proposals have been killed outright once they fell victim to a filibuster. The "constitutional option" has come to be used as simple shorthand for a procedure that allows the Senate to change its rules by a simple majority vote, but it is in fact a very complex set of parliamentary maneuvers, carefully developed by previous reformers through years of trial and error, to put the Senate on a footing where a single vote can both end debate on proposed reforms and preclude any intervening motions that might give rise to yet another debate, and therefore another filibuster. It is only at that point when the possibility for all further delay has been extinguished that the Senate is in a position that guarantees a majority the ability to work its will. Previous reformers have learned through hard experience that leaving the door open to a filibuster is the kiss of death. And absent an iron-clad agreement for unanimous consent, a proposed standing order is always going to be subject to that threat.

So while there is nothing inherently wrong or weak about adopting changes in the form of a standing order, and the order itself isn't any less enforceable than a standing rule, the procedural problem is that the standing order route offers no guaranteed path to a simple up-or-down vote on the substance. While there are ways to get there, they rely either on taking the other side's word on an agreement to get to that vote (or that they'll grant unanimous consent), or on accepting the word of 60+ Senators that they'll vote for cloture on any and all attempts to filibuster the adoption of the resolution embodying the standing order. And if you're a believer in the finite nature of that special window of opportunity that the logic of the constitutional option is said to establish at the beginning of a new Congress, then you can't afford to take any risk at all that any of the steps toward adoption of the standing order could be disrupted by a filibuster, lest the window be deemed closed by the very act of acknowledging the continuing force of Rule XXII, the cloture rule.

That brings us to a third major difference between the standing order route and the rules change route. Rules changes, once adopted, are their own enforcement mechanism. That is, the fact that they're rules gives them their own force. Standing orders, it's true, can be enforced like rules. At least, once they're adopted. And that's where the problem arises. As I've just explained, the rules change route, via the constitutional option, follows a prescribed procedure designed to eliminate the possibility of being derailed by a filibuster along the way to rules change. The standing order route depends on deal-making to get there. And where a deal can be made, it can also be broken. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has found himself surprised in the past by members of his own Republican conference objecting to deals to which he thought he'd already gotten their consent, and that can be a dangerous thing in a delicate situation like this.

The bipartisan group working on this plan, one would have to guess, probably see parallels between themselves and the "Gang of 14" that defused the 2005 "nuclear option" confrontation. But often forgotten about the Gang of 14's deal is the fact that it actually had built right into it the threat to resort to the very same "nuclear option" it sought to avoid, if the Republican signatories felt their Democratic counterparts weren't holding up their end of the bargain. That was the enforcement mechanism the parties gave themselves. The Republicans, though they preferred not to change the rules, reserved that right for themselves. And that was what would hold the Democrats to their pledge to support cloture motions on judicial nominations (except in "extraordinary circumstances") for the balance of the 109th Congress. Although a standing order, once adopted, is enforceable just like a rule, it's during the dangerous process of turning a mere proposal into an actual order that this latest proposal is most vulnerable. And while the same danger applies to an actual rules change, the constitutional option offers its own protection for the process, built right in to the carefully choreographed procedure. What is the protection for the process of adopting a standing order? Nothing. It's a handshake deal. Unless, of course, the parties to the deal acknowledge that the majority reserves its right to resort to the constitutional option if things should go awry.

Right now, the deal on the table evidences none of that. Not only that, but with just four Democrats and four Republicans currently parties to whatever deal may be in the works, this new Gang doesn't even deliver enough votes to guarantee cloture on the resolution that would establish their proposed standing order. Fifty-five Senators are expected to vote with the Democratic caucus at the beginning of the 113th Congress. Even if you get every one of them on board, adding the new Gang's Republican four makes just 59 votes. Not enough to invoke cloture if anyone decides to go for broke and filibuster the proposed order. Sure, that can change, and additional support for the proposal from among Republican ranks might even be considered quite likely. But it's not there yet, and if the past history of filibuster reform is any guide, there are a lot of dangerous stretches along the parliamentary road from proposal to done deal.

And those are just the procedural objections. The substance of the proposal doesn't give much comfort, either. But I'll comb through that in a later post.

In the meantime, there's a better path to reform on the table, and it's the strength of that better path that's driving Republicans to try to negotiate alternatives. The stronger the public support for real rules reform, the closer Republicans will have to come to it in order not to find themselves shut out of shaping the Senate's future. Help give your Senators the upper hand. Send your Senator a message in support of real filibuster reform.

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Comment Preferences

  •  system (9+ / 0-)

    The American system of government has always been a failure for rights and justice.  Being blessed with abundant natural resources and immigrant labor, we have always been an economic success.  Being cursed with our 3 headed monster, we have a terrible civil rights record--inequality problem.  Human success is not the same as monetary success--unless you are a Koch brother.

    Apres Bush, le deluge.

    by melvynny on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 08:08:13 AM PST

    •  You are wrong. (4+ / 0-)
      The American system of government has always been a failure for rights and justice.
      That statement is simply not true.  The quest for rights and justice has been difficult and often complicated, but we have abolished slavery, obtained universal suffrage, abolished Jim Crow laws, obtained social security and medicare and many other objective measures of rights and justice.  That is not to say that we don't still have many challenges, we do, but your opening sentence is uninformed and misleading.

      Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a Republican. But I repeat myself. Harry Truman

      by ratcityreprobate on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 09:59:17 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  actually (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        aliasalias, RUNDOWN

        Were we first in any of these endeavors?  Actually, as far as slavery and civil rights are concerned, we were damned near last in the Western world.  Same for social security and universal health care--oh wait--we still haven't caught up to most of Europe.

        As for Jim Crow laws, haven't many states re instituted voting restrictions?  And our quality/equality of life gets worse daily--we are the last major power to act on climate change--or to build infrastructure to protect us for the man made disasters ahead.

        Wanna talk about militarism?  Big brother intervention?  Unhealthy crops/medicines?

        Apres Bush, le deluge.

        by melvynny on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 10:11:24 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I didn't say we were first and I believe I (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          said, "That is not to say that we don't still have many challenges, we do..."  As I said, you are wrong, your opening statement is not true.  It is ill-informed hyperbole that serves no useful purpose.  It certainly doesn't provide an opening for any educated talk.

          Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a Republican. But I repeat myself. Harry Truman

          by ratcityreprobate on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 10:32:08 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Strom Thrumond (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        melvynny, alice kleeman, bear83

        would have succeeded in his obstruction of Civil Rights had today's Senate rules had been in place then.

        And what is it with Michigan Democrats these days?


        If not us ... who? If not here ... where? If not now ... when?

        by RUNDOWN on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 02:28:17 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Are there 51 votes without Levin at this point? nt (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    eeff, shaharazade, bear83, RUNDOWN

    As the Elites Come Together to Rise Above to Find a Third Way to do Rude things to the 99%

    by JML9999 on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 08:08:50 AM PST

  •  Some Dems Have No Fight In Them (11+ / 0-)

    Unlike the people here who I think would relish the chance at mixing it up. I don't understand why you would give away your advantage by playing prevent defense and giving your opponent the chance to score but the Democrats in Congress do it every single time.

    This head movie makes my eyes rain.

    by The Lone Apple on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 08:09:23 AM PST

  •  Hagan Burr (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JML9999, leonard145b, shaharazade

    I sent them that message.
    Usually I hear back from Hagan when I send messages.
    She might be a problem on this !

  • can bet on it (9+ / 0-)

    "A sure sign Dems have the upper hand in filibuster reform: a bipartisan 'compromise' to take it away"

    •  That's my thinking also. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      apimomfan2, bear83
      "A sure sign Dems have the upper hand in filibuster reform: a bipartisan 'compromise' to take it away"

      "I'm totally pro-choice in the matter of abortion. But of course I'm also so radically pro-life that I think every person from birth onward must have full and affordable access to healthcare." - Gail Collins

      by gritsngumbo on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 03:41:32 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Sen. Levin needs a primary challenge. (11+ / 0-)

    The NRA is the Gun Manufacturer Lobby. Nothing more. Their pontification about the second amendment is nothing more than their ad jingle. They're the domestic version of the Military Industrial Complex.

    by Jacoby Jonze on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 08:14:25 AM PST

    •  He is hopeless (6+ / 0-)

      a real slimy weasel, look at his mendacity on NDAA. He creeps me out just watching him. All of blue weasel dogs could use a primary. Thing is the D party machine with the money and power isn't about to support any pol who looks to rock their boat.

      How can we get better Dems. if our entrenched  party 'leadership' refuses to support any contender that does not toe the established line and go along with their ridiculous kabuki. What good are majority's when the Dems in the senate or the house always find a way to pull rules or compromise out of their anti-democratic butts.

      The established senate order and the tweaked procedural rules are nothing but a smoke screen that enables them to continue with their by-partisan mendacity. 9% approval rating and yet no 'reform' in sight. What mockery they have made of our system.

      Dysfunctional and broken serves their agenda well. Very hard to primary the likes of Levin when the party's Biggest Blue Dog, Clinton during the Lieberman challenge stated that 'What's wrong with two Democrat's running?'

      That said in OR we did manage to elect Merkley and every now and then a decent Democratic candidate manages to make it through the corrupt electoral system and get elected but then what? There are always enough of these old bulls and fake Dems to render the better Dems useless.    


  •  And you can't trust McCain at all... (8+ / 0-)

    He's a bitter old clown at this point, and Lindsay Graham is up for re-election in 2014 and would be afraid of a primary challenge if he was seen helping the Dems and specifically Obama get his judges through.  

    The guaranteed two minority amendments is dangerous because of Conservadems.  How many Dems in the past voiced support for a Balanced Budget Amendment?  

    The NRA is the Gun Manufacturer Lobby. Nothing more. Their pontification about the second amendment is nothing more than their ad jingle. They're the domestic version of the Military Industrial Complex.

    by Jacoby Jonze on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 08:14:43 AM PST

  •  Ezra Klein last night hosting Maddow (11+ / 0-)

    American's know Congress is broken. Jeff Merkley was his guest and addressed the nonsense that Levin & McCain proposed.

    "There is but one evil party with two names, and it will be elected despite all I can do or say." W.E.B. Dubois, 1956

    by TheMomCat on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 08:19:27 AM PST

    •  The only thing I have a problem with is the (6+ / 0-)

      talking filibuster.  Just get rid of the filibuster or do a simple majority but a talking filibuster, if they choose to use it, and they would.... would just give them a televised stage and a town hall type format for them to spew their rhetoric on CSPAN for hours on end.  

      Now instead of the blue screen they can watch as they talk hour after hour about whatever they want....even lies and BS and perhaps the public would actually begin to believe it.

      If we think they wouldn't actually stand up there and preach like Limbaugh on a rant or they would use the time to read the phone book, we are deluding ourselves.

      •  I'm all for going "nuclear" (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ek hornbeck, apimomfan2

        and ending the filibuster altogether. Along with the electoral college which the Republicans are now trying to game using the same gerrymandering methods they used to hold their majority in the House.

        The problem is the Democrats are too weak kneed to stand up and fight for their core principles. Thank the cat that the likes of Sen. Gaylord Kent Conrad (D-ND) are out the door.

        "There is but one evil party with two names, and it will be elected despite all I can do or say." W.E.B. Dubois, 1956

        by TheMomCat on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 01:32:24 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  They have no interest in revealing their (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ek hornbeck, TheMomCat, apimomfan2

        twisted ideas to their constituents - the Senate is the sacred temple of the "Back Room Deal" and for good reason.

        Unlike congressional teapot reps who's rhetoric plays well to their gerrymandered districts - statewide office are more perilous for extreme views.

        Yes, they may "lie", but more likely would become a comedy of "off topic" bloviating and preaching. These guys are not "entertainers" or on air personalities - just a bunch of old men for the most part who lack the courage and energy of their convictions.

        They need to start eating their Wheaties and hitting the treadmills if they really want to "fight" for something - my guess is very few of them will even try.

        If not us ... who? If not here ... where? If not now ... when?

        by RUNDOWN on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 02:40:43 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Inundate Levin's Office (7+ / 0-)

    Phone calls

    Whatever.  He needs to know that he has NO support in this compromise.

    I feel like Bluto in Animal House -- "Did we give up when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?"

    Hell, I'd prefer Senator Blutarski right now over Levin.

    The Meek Shall Inherit NOTHING -- Frank Zappa

    by LickBush on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 08:25:26 AM PST

    •  My note to Sen. Levin (8+ / 0-)

      He always is contacting me for support and $$$ even though I'm not a constituent, and I actually gave him money he owes me :-)


      Dear Sen. Levin I know I am not a constituent, so it's likely this email will not be read, but I feel compelled with utmost concern to contact you and request -- no BEG -- you stop negotiating with the Republicans on filibuster reform. The senate is broken. Dysfunctional. And frankly, it's become a sham. To quote Woody Allen, "It's a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham." Seriously. And to keep enabling Republicans to destroy the last shred of relevance of the US Senate is absurd. Why would you support such a thing? There is NO justifiable reason -- I've heard them all and they are all just hand-wringing and teeth gnashing. There is no "there" there. Stop accommodating the Republicans. We won the election based on the desire of the American people to get things done. Stop working to protect the interests of the Senate and start working to protect the interests of the people. I know you have been a great senator and support the Democratic party. But the Democratic party is constantly giving in -- I don't see the Republican party giving in on ANYTHING. Their idea of compromise is for you guys to meet their terms. They draw a line in the sand and Democrats move toward it, and Republicans just back away further and draw a new line. STOP -- PLEASE!!! Stop cowtowing to those whose sole purpose is to thwart any success for Democrats. Stop with the "thank you sir, may I have another" mentality that permeates the current Democratic party, because believe me, the Republicans will gladly give you another. Over and over again. Haven't we learned ANYTHING from the last session? Please sir, with all due respect, reconsider your desire to water down filibuster reform.

      The Meek Shall Inherit NOTHING -- Frank Zappa

      by LickBush on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 08:43:07 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Don't trust. Keep the biggest set of procedural... (5+ / 0-)

    ... and substantive armaments available.

    This isn't bipartisan trust at all. Filibuster reform is going to happen. It can happen Big with all the volcanos of can't and rant the Republicans choose (with some of our so-called Democrats waffling or incommunicado) or it can happen reasonably ... but will surely happen.

    David, please expedite your discussion of the substance of the proposed reform(s). This is an important time to put substance over procedure.

    Consider the irony of having procedure kill filibuster reform, when the filibuster is about nothing but procedure triumphing over substance.

    2014 IS COMING. Build up the Senate. Win back the House : 17 seats. Plus!

    by TRPChicago on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 08:25:53 AM PST

  •  Great Post, Thanks! Tipped, Reccd, And Message: (4+ / 0-)

    sent to Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell.

  •  The country is divided into two groups (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MrJersey, this just in, shaharazade

    those that already know, and have known for some time, how this is going to play out and the rest of us.

  •  Remember how bad a movie "The Sting II" was? ... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    maryabein, shaharazade

    I do.

    This is Sting 3: Electric Kabuki.

    save your ticket stubs.

    It seems curiosity has killed the cat that had my tongue.

    by Murphoney on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 08:37:38 AM PST

  •  WTH is up with Levin??? (6+ / 0-)

    sheesh -

    Merkley is my senator (can you tell I'm proud? LOL), but I have sent messages to him telling him about my pride and also to Wyden.

    If we are to have a teeny tiny chance of getting anything done in the senate, we need this badly.

    And, IMO, anyone who believes that McCain is doing something 'bipartisan' with this, needs to have their heads examined. Yes, I'm looking at you Carl Levin!!!

  •  Sigh. n/t (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mightymouse, qofdisks, shaharazade

    "Michael Moore, who was filming a movie about corporate welfare called 'Capitalism: A Love Story,' sought and received incentives."

    by Bush Bites on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 08:52:44 AM PST

  •  hold off on 2014 $ contribs until filibuster vote (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mightymouse, qofdisks, bear83, RUNDOWN

    I had planned to donate $$ to some of the vulnerable Senate Democrats up for reelection in 2014 prior to 12/31/12 so as to increase their FEC campaign reports totals.

    I have decided instead to wait until the vote on filibuster reform.  The Senate is broken and is a non-functioning body.  Unless there is meaningful filibuster reform, Obama can kiss away any hope of meaningful accomplishments in the next two years.

    Harry Reid and Senate Democrats will either kill Obama's next two years or get something done - it all depends on meaningful filibuster reform.

  •  The three look half dead, for one. (7+ / 0-)

    For two, they have the wrong name plates.

    For three, these three pushed NDAA through.

    For four, what a freaking mess.

    My fear.  Without the filibuster, if a GOP Hatriot gains power/majority like Bush and his rubber stamp congress did, and with most states now governed by GOP Hatriots (and their followers armed to the teeth), will our liberal/progressive rights be protected?

    Do we need to be careful what we wish for?  What's the long term ramification?

    I'm sure our Dems in the Senate will rewrite the fillibuster law perfectly well to protect us forever, I hope.

    It's difficult to be happy knowing so many suffer. We must unite.

    by War on Error on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 08:54:50 AM PST

  •  F this Compromise Sht (6+ / 0-)

    I am sending e-mails and calling the offices of all concerned with that message. Republicans don't want to compromise, they want to destroy the Obama administration. McConnell said it and everything they have done has proved it. The onus is on them to prove otherwise.

    And as evidenced by their long standing pledges to Grover Norquist to "drown it in a bathtub" they also want to destroy the govt. Again all the evidence points to the truth in that statement.

    Christ! Obama can't even get a judicial nominee through the Senate anymore.  It's time to stop this shit and make them govern. Reform the filibuster.

    And don't trust McCain, he's a bitter old man who only has the interests of his own party and himself when he governs.

  •  So what is the perceived downside (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mightymouse, RUNDOWN

    of the "constitutional" option?

    Let's say we go ahead and vote a rules change with 51 Senators supporting and implement filibsuter reform.

    Next congress comes along and the Republicans are the majority. What are the sort of dastardly things they could then justify doing with rules changes and just 51 votes?

    "Do what you can with what you have where you are." - Teddy Roosevelt

    by Andrew C White on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 09:04:12 AM PST

    •  That's called democracy (4+ / 0-)

      The majority rule, which seem to mean absolutely nothing these days. There is a total disconnect between the electoral process and the branches of our so called representational democracy/republic. The Senate has a 9% approval rating last time I looked and yet they continue to flaunt the basic 'rule' of democratically elected with a majority. The tenets of our democracy should supersede the procedurals/rules and other runarounds all designed to thwart the democratic process and our system of checks and balance.

      What difference does it make if the Republicans are able to accomplish 'all sorts of dastardly things' regardless of which side has a majority, regardless of who wins. Maybe if the Dems. used their power when they are a majority and actually implemented decent governance instead of 'victories for compromise' and grand bargains from hell they would not lose to these maniac's. But then again that would not serve the 'by-partisan' agenda that both sides work hard to keep in place. It's all smoke and mirrors and cart before the horse politics instead of real democratic representation and upholding our sacred documents and laws.. A total misuse/abuse of all aspects of our governing system.

      I'm burned up about FISA passing again with more the half of the senate Democrat's voting for it. They have no interest in reforming anything they only want to protect the bogus status quo that gives them cover. They don't even give a rat's ass about public opinion as the electoral system is owned and run by the oligarchical collective that is the real power. They know full well that we the people have no choice electorally at this point. All we get to do is ratify the so called lesser evil.                

      •  where is the gridlock when it comes to FISA, or (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        alice kleeman

        anything else enriches the 1% or that strips rights from the people like the Patriot Act (not just passed but expanded) indefinite detention, warrantless wiretapping etc. ?
         I've never supported 'term limits', throwing out the baby with the bath water and all that, but maybe if a member of Congress had an unfavorable rating below a certain degree to their constituents it could apply.

        But when will these old bulls vote for THAT?

        without the ants the rainforest dies

        by aliasalias on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 11:44:33 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Getting Back to Democracy (5+ / 0-)

    This is simply a question of getting back to democracy. If you are going to question Senators on it, ask them when they are going to get back to democracy in the Senate.

    What we need here is courage. We need the courage of a majority of Senators to exert their right to rule. They can do that at any time, IMHO, by simply putting up a bill that wraps the rules in the bill. If you have a majority of Senators (or 50 plus the VP) who support the bill you win. That does not require a rules change, only the will of the majority.

    Someone in the Senate needs to have the savvy and the guts to put up a bill under those conditions. Once it becomes clear that it is feasible, negotiating a reasonable solution to the problem would be very, very easy.

    What is a reasonable solution? I think one way to fix this is to make all bills passable by a majority vote and do away with the motion to proceed. Bills should come up in the order they go in the hopper, unless a majority votes to bring one of the registered bills to the floor out of order. They should take the number of hours the Senate will be in session for the year and divide by 100, then give that number of hours to each Senator to address any bill from the floor. If the Republicans want to block a bill then they can expend all their cumulative hours on it. That will delay it and maybe talk it to death. But when their hours run out, that's it, then it goes to a majority vote.

    And as for nominees, the talk on them should be strictly limited. For each nominee, there should be four hours to present arguments for and four hours to present arguments against. After that, confirmation should simply go to a majority vote.

    With this system you get the ability to present your case fully to the Senate and to the American people, but you cannot indefinitely block legislation. That's democracy in action.

    The only question is: when they are going to get back to democracy in the Senate.

  •  No compromises (8+ / 0-)

    No handshake deals

    No gentleman's agreements

    They are all bullshit. We need real rules reform now. The Republicans' only interest in floating this "compromise" is stopping real reform from happening.

    Republicans cannot be trusted to keep their word on anything. Remember, McConnell filibustered HIS OWN proposal a couple weeks ago, and "Gentleman's agreements" in 2009 and 2011 led to the most filibusters and cloture votes in history.

    Democrats are nuts if they pass on this chance for real filibuster reform.

    Filibuster reform now. No more Gentleman's agreements.

    by bear83 on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 09:13:41 AM PST

  •  most of the dems (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    alice kleeman

    would rather go along with their peers then help protect the voters outside wash, the dems talk a good game but not much gets done along the talking lines.

    •  Actually there were 44 Democratic votes for reform (0+ / 0-)

      in Jan 2011, including Levin. Based on turnover from the 2012 election and commitments from incoming Dem senators, there should be 48 votes now (assuming no one has flip-flopped).

      The vote back then was 44 Yes-51 No:

      Democratic Sens. Jim Webb (Va.), Max Baucus (Mont.), Herb Kohl (Wis.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Jack Reed (R.I.) and Reid voting no. Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), John Kerry (Mass.) and Daniel Inouye (Hawaii) did not vote. - The Hill, 11/13/12

      Baucus, Pryor, Reed and Reid are the remaining 'No' votes. Feinstien and Kerry did not vote.

      I am not sure where Schatz stands, but if he is a 'Yes', he would be #49.

      No wonder the GOP is nervous.

      Filibuster reform now. No more Gentleman's agreements.

      by bear83 on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 08:59:45 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Dems - Grasping defeat from the jaws of victory (6+ / 0-)

    After the last two years, I can't understand how a single Democratic Senator can say with a straight face that the Senate isn't dysfunctional.  Real filibuster reform is vital, if they actually want to, you know, pass bills and stuff.

    Can we start shaming the Dems who are still on the fence, like Levin?  Anyone have a list of the holdouts?

    332 - 206. Not a mandate, my ass.

    by StonyB on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 09:18:55 AM PST

  •  There are many things I (0+ / 0-)

    respect about Carl Levin..namely his doggedness on torture policy and the '08 financial crisis. But he's too much of an institutionalist...he was also resistant to pushing hard on DADT, I remember Obama gave him a call in early December 2010 instructing him to put it in the NDAA.

  •  Ah, the Bargaining Stage. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shaharazade, schuylkill, apimomfan2

    Republicans: Their only tool is a hammer, and every problem is a thumb.

    by Sue Hagmeier on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 09:33:36 AM PST

  •  A Crime Against Demcracy (5+ / 0-)

    An essential characteristic of democracy is majority rule. The will of the majority prevails in a democracy, within the limits of individual rights and authorities set out in a constitution. It is the right of the majority to pass its policies and legislation.

    Much is written of the rights of the minority, but what of the rights of the majority? The rules of the Senate blatantly violate both the rights of the majority and the principles of democracy.

    In a democracy, the right of the minority is this: the right to be heard in order to try to persuade others to your view. If you are still in the minority after making your case, then you lose the day. The majority wins.

    And if the minority has had its say, then it is the responsibility of the minority to go along with the majority. That's how a democracy works. You don't hear any of today's filibuster apologists talking about the responsibilities of the minority, do you?  

    The Founders would be appalled to see how the Senate has twisted the minority right to be heard into the right to permanently block any action a minority faction doesn't like.

    The filibuster is an obscenity in the soul of our democracy.

    The Constitution gives each house of Congress the power to make its own rules, but the Senate rules allowing filibusters are an irresponsible abuse of that power, and it is strangling our democracy, our government, and our society.

    The filibuster is a crime against democracy.

    by schuylkill on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 09:38:21 AM PST

    •  Only one little detail... (0+ / 0-)

      ...we are not a pure (representative or direct) democracy at the national level and the founders never intended us to be.

      That's why the Senate has two representatives per state. [Article I, Section 3]

      That's why the electoral college effectively gives more power to people in smaller states. [Article II, Section 1]

      That's why (at least some) treaties require two-thirds concurrence of the Senate (itself already biased towards smaller states as compared to a pure democracy). [Article II, Section 1]

      That's why proposals of amendments to the Constitution require either two-thirds approval from both Houses or a convention to consider amendments requested by two-thirds of the states and why such amendments require ratification by three-quarters of the states. [Article V]

      That's why conviction on impeachment charges requires two-thirds concurrence of the Senate (itself already biased towards smaller states as compared to a pure democracy).. [Article I, Section 3]

      That's why one of the few sacrosanct (i.e., NOT subject to amendment) provisions of the Constitution is that "no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate." [Article V][1]

      That's why an override of a Presidential veto requires a two-thirds majority in both houses. [Article I, Section 7]

      That's why each House is given complete control over how to conduct business (hence the filibuster) without regard for if it's "democratic". [Article I, Section 5]

      That's why each House requires a two-thirds vote to expel a member for "disorderly Behaviour". [Article I, Section 6]

      ...all enshrined in the US Constitution they wrote.

      Always be careful when making statements about what the founders "would think" without careful consideration of what they obviously did think.

      [1] Although there seems to be nothing to, for example, prevent amending the Constitution to:
      • Create another House of Congress, perhaps called NewSenate, with identical membership/election processes as the existing Senate.
      • Give members of NewSenate a fractional vote based on the relative population of their state.
      • Strip the "old" Senate of all responsibilities except attending state funerals.
      • Give NewSenate all the powers/interactions with other branches and House of Representatives that the existing Senate has.

      This would still, technically, give each state equal suffrage in the Senate, it's just that the Senators would have no power.
      •  That wasn't the point (0+ / 0-)

        I'm not arguing against any of the Constitutional supermajority requirements. There are certainly some things that should require a supermajority to change. They are spelled out in the Constitution, as you wrote.  

        My point is that the Senate is abusing its power to make its own rules by allowing a minority to permanently block action on normal business.

        The founders did address this topic. In The Federalist No. 22, for example, Hamilton wrote (emphasis mine):

        The necessity of unanimity in public bodies, or of something approaching towards it, has been founded upon a supposition that it would contribute to security. But its real operation is to embarrass the administration, to destroy the energy of the government, and to substitute the pleasure, caprice, or artifices of an insignificant, turbulent, or corrupt junto, to the regular deliberations and decisions of a respectable majority.
        If the Founders wanted the Senate to operate by supermajority for normal business, they would have required that in the Constitution, just as they did in the instances you cite. In the absence of such a requirement, a simple majority was (and is) expected to suffice for normal business.


        I agree with your points about how the Constitution might be amended to change the undemocratic nature of the Senate's make-up (see my diary on that subject), but that's a different subject than the Senate's rules allowing filibusters.

        The filibuster is a crime against democracy.

        by schuylkill on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 01:30:58 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The founders obviously wanted to... (0+ / 0-)

 leave it up to each house to determine what rules they wanted to follow. They were smart enough to know that the House and the Senate may make rules that the founders didn't like and likely figured that the ballot box would take care of any problems in that regard if the people didn't like the rules.

          As for the Hamilton quote, I would hardly call 60% a "unanimity [or] something approaching towards it" - esp. when the Constitution has a bunch of actions that clearly specify a requirement for a two-thirds majority. The dictated structure of the Senate, which gives wildly disproportionate power to small states, seems to support that premise.

          I don't like the current filibuster rules either, and I hope they are changed to at least require actually, well, filibustering. But I'm still not convinced that they would have been considered a travesty by the founders. I think it's much more likely they would have found the scope of control that the Federal Government exercises now to be a travesty to their original ideals.

          Too bad we can't dig them up and ask them.

          •  Don't have to dig them up (0+ / 0-)

            We don't have to dig them up and ask them. They left plenty of their opinions and reasoning behind in writings and essays that we can still read today. I've read a fair bit of them and don't remember any arguments for allowing a minority to block the majority in normal business in legislative bodies.

            In fact, one of the reasons for needing a new constitution to replace the Articles of Confederation was this (also from The Federalist No. 22):

            Its operation contradicts the fundamental maxim of republican government, which requires that the sense of the majority should prevail.
            You and I can disagree on what the Founders would think of the filibuster rules in the Senate, but I remain confidant that they would be appalled at the Senate's dysfunction today—just as most Americans today are appalled at it—and the main reason it's dysfunctional are the filibuster rules that allow a minority to block the majority on normal business.

            But what the Founders would think is not really the main issue. We have the last several years of experience of its dysfunction as proof that the Senate, with these rules, cannot perform its constitutional duty: to conduct the nation's business.

            The rules that allow the filibuster were, perhaps, tolerable when they were used infrequently, but to use them to block normal business is not tolerable and they have led to today's dysfunction.

            Technically, it does not require any change to the Constitution to revise or eliminate the rules that allow minorities to block action. They're just Senate rules. The House has the same power to make its own rules and yet has managed to reform its rules to eliminate filibustering, which used to take place in the House, too.  

            However, politically, it may take a constitutional change to limit the Senate's power to make its own rules in order to end its abuse of that power.

            Those damn Senators just love themselves too much.

            The filibuster is a crime against democracy.

            by schuylkill on Mon Dec 31, 2012 at 04:38:21 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  As an independent... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shaharazade, bear83

    For the past few decades I have only voted for Democrats, but I am not a Democrat.  The Republicans are like dangerous predatory animals.  The Democrats are like soft fluffy puddie cats.  However, if they show a little spine on filibuster reform, I might change my mind.

    •  soft fluffy puddie cats? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Nah they just play this part in the political kabuki show.  In reality both sides get what their owners want and it isn't democratic governance or even checks or balance. The Democrat's are complicit as they constantly take off the table all the remedies provided in our constitution and all the checks that get in the way of their anti-democratic agenda.

      The table is then reset with bogus bargains and compromises that the Dems. have offered up. NDAA, FISA, our 'entitlements' our basic universal laws our inalienable rights, our common good, a decent equitable economy fit to live and work in, you name it they slap it on the table. Then they haggle over the degrees of harm and damage they can implement. All our votes do nowadays is ratify the by-partisan anti-democratic agenda that is behind the smoke and mirrors of this bad kabuki.

      Where's my habeas corpus, Senator Levin?        

  •  What? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    There really ought to be some kind of pidgin translator for what goes on in the Senate. Bumblederblanderbish.

    Above and beyond that very important goal, they genuinely believe that Senators ought to vote directly on the adoption (or continuation) of their rules with some regularity, rather than simply assuming that they continue in force from one Congress to the next, as Rule V purports to be the case. Those Senators are not likely to be enamored of a compromise that drops this important aspect of rules reform.
    Is this saying that each new Senate would have to vote on, by simple majority on day one, their entire rules?

    Isn't that a biannual nuclear option?

    And, Bumblederblanderbish

    And if you're a believer in the finite nature of that special window of opportunity that the logic of the constitutional option is said to establish at the beginning of a new Congress, then you can't afford to take any risk at all that any of the steps toward adoption of the standing order could be disrupted by a filibuster, lest the window be deemed closed by the very act of acknowledging the continuing force of Rule XXII, the cloture rule.
  •  Hopefully, Reform Will Happen (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "The answer, of course, is that the votes haven't been cast yet, and Senators are still subject to persuasion."

    And this fact is what gives me pause during this discussion of filibuster reform.  We know as an absolute fact that Republicans are opposed to reform in any way, shape, or form.  But what about the Democrats?  Unfortunately, some of them have a dismal history of caving in to the Republicans at every opportunity.

    If that happens in terms of filibuster reform, then Harry Reid needs to show a backbone by penalizing those Democrats.  Reid's pandering to Joe Lierberman, especially after Joey openly campaigned for John McCain, still sticks in my craw.  This lack of discipline for said treason is a major reason that I have viewed the Senate Democrats as little more than a farce.

    We won the Election in November, and it is time that we reap the benefits of that victory.  Real filibuster reform is one of those benefits.  If any Democrat opposes that, then may Harry Reid help that senator's shoes to pinch his toes.

  •  Increasingly, (0+ / 0-)

    it seems that the only good and decent GOP politician is the one who is in a pine box with a stake through his heart.

  •  Dems have upper hand in filibuster bust up. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Please don't screw this up but then again Sen. "Tough Guy" Reid is at the bat so let's see what will happen:  it's Reid by a left hook.

  •  We must force votes on all nominees (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Every judicial nominee must have a vote within six weeks of the nomination unless 60 vote to delay that vote.

    Every administrative nominee must have a vote within four weeks of the nomination unless 60 vote to delay the vote.

    Americans can make our country better.

    by freelunch on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 10:56:23 AM PST

  •  What's with the name plates in the photo? (0+ / 0-)

    Maybe it's just a really bad camera angle? Sen. Reed is (presumably) off screen.

  •  Who are the 4 Democrats? n/t (0+ / 0-)

    Warren is neither a Clintonesque triangulator nor an Obamaesque conciliator. She is a throwback to a more combative progressive tradition, and her candidacy is a test of whether that approach can still appeal to voters.-J. Toobin "New Yorker"

    by chuck utzman on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 12:10:26 PM PST

    •  There are 6 Dems left who did not vote for reform (0+ / 0-)

      that Udall and Merkley were pushing in Jan 2011.

      Baucus, Pryor, Reed and Reid are the remaining 'No' votes from last time, and Feinstien and Kerry did not vote.

      I would bet they make up most of the 'gang'.

      Filibuster reform now. No more Gentleman's agreements.

      by bear83 on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 09:05:01 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  If you are in charge, be in charge. (0+ / 0-)

    When it is all said and done, it's all the fault of the president and the Democratic leaders in Congress. What matters more? Doing what's right and leaving a legacy, or seeking compromise and bipartisanship at dire costs?

    I'm not saying that they should ignore the voice of the minority. But the majority of the people agree with Democratic leaders and the President, the majority of economist agree with Democrats and the President, the majority of scientists agree with Democrats and the President, the majo... you get the point. Somehow though, all I'm hearing is how these gentlemen love to leave their legacies (and the change they promised), up to "handshake agreements", compromise (even when they know it's wrong), and the likes.

    So as it relates to the Filibuster, Democratic leaders should worry about pushing forward, and putting rules that they could live with if they were the minority. How hard is that? Let's get going.  If we are wrong, let it be: we have the majority agreeing with us. Plus there is nothing wrong that this congress can do, that can't be undone if it's that bad. So why are we wasting so much time? How would the senate be if Pelosi was the leader.

    To me, Democratic leaders (including the President) have the power and the means to change all of these Senate games. Because of that, they deserve every credit and every blame that will come when these years wrap up.

  •  tipped, recc'd, tweeted, and signed petition... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    personalized message to Senators Begich and Murkowski.

  •  Senate filibuster reform (0+ / 0-)

    I find it amazing that the author of this essay wrote as many words as he did and yet failed to explain how the filibuster currently works, how the various reform proposals would change the way it works, and how the "compromise proposal" would change the way it works.

    •  He's written much about it (0+ / 0-)

      Over the course of many diaries over that last several years, David Waldman has explained how the rules currently work, how various reform proposals would work, and why the political machinations behind various moves have taken place. He is the resident expert on filibuster reform.

      He is also part of a group leading the charge to persuade Senators to reform the rules.

      If you want more information, a good way to start would be to look through his previous diaries.

      The filibuster is a crime against democracy.

      by schuylkill on Mon Dec 31, 2012 at 04:58:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The arguement of "Party in Power" in Bunk. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    apimomfan2, bear83

    Conservatives have outnumbered progressives in congress for decades - doesn't really matter what "Party is in Power".

    If not us ... who? If not here ... where? If not now ... when?

    by RUNDOWN on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 03:15:09 PM PST

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